Come tomorrow, Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis will join that exclusive fraternity of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members age 50 and over who still look good performing shirtless. Kiedis joins his bandmate, bassist Flea, who turned 50 two weeks ago, and the ageless Iggy Pop as wild and crazy topless Hall of Famers.
At the sold-out Target Center Tuesday night, the Chili Peppers tried to show that while they may be eligible for AARP, they're not exactly the retiring types. Well, not all of them. Drummer Chad Smith, 51, was rock solid, as always. New guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, 33, was only 4 when Kiedis and Flea formed the band but the new kid is still recovering from a broken foot suffered onstage in August. So he sat down for perhaps half of the show in Minneapolis.
Wth revolving personnel on drums and guitar for years, the Chili Peppers have clearly become Flea's and Kiedis' band. While Flea treated nearly every song Tuesday like it was a sprint, Kiedis carried on like he was doing a marathon at a lazy man's pace. During the first encore piece, an instrumental jam between Smith and Klinghoffer, Flea was walking around the stage on his hands. Where was Kiedis? Maybe offstage getting oxygen.
Then when Kiedis returned for "Suck My Kiss," Flea was hopping and strutting all over the stage while the singer pretty much just struck a bare-chested pose, with his Tom Selleck mustache, ballcap and hyper-stylized trousers with one long leg and one short leg, under which he was wearing that most infamous of Chili Peppers' garb, a tube sock.
As hard as Flea tried, he couldn't save this night from being sluggish, awkwardly paced and surprisingly underwhelming. Heading into the home stretch of a six-continent, 128-concert tour, the Chili Peppers showed neither tour-tested chemistry nor a sense of momentum. There were certainly some exciting moments -- an electrifying "Can't Stop," the galvanizing "By the Way"and the always invigorating "Give It Away" -- but then the quartet (augmented by a keyboardist and percussionist) would downshift into something too slow and sludgy.
Klinghoffer had big shoes to fill, with the 2009 departure of John Frusciante, who, in 2011, was ranked No. 72 on Rolling Stone's list of 100 greatest guitarists. The newcomer sprayed some spikey fills and took some wirey solos but he lacked the textural range, emotional depth and essential soulfulness of his predecessor. With Klinghoffer's limitations and Kiedis' anemic effort, it was hard to accept the Los Angeles band's enshrinement this year into the Rock Hall of Fame. Sure, they were once inspired genre blenders, throwing together elastic funk, punk aggression, pop hooks and rap inflections into a dance-happy, radio-friendly hybrid, but Tuesday night, the Chili Peppers were neither inspired nor inspiring.
Nonetheless, the beer-guzzling crowd of 13,500 went home happy. They heard the hits, including the poignant 1991 drug-rumination ballad "Under the Bridge" with its faux flamenco guitar and last year's "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," which sounded like a Stones disco song (thanks to Flea's rubbery funk bass) with a poppy chorus. Guess these fans, raised on radio and high on the fumes of MTV, never realized that the Chili Peppers were once an exciting, almost dangerous band.
At the end of the 1¾-hour performance, Kiedis wasn't even onstage to say "thanks and goodnight." Instead, Flea gave a gushing speech about gratitude for 28 years of support of RHCP concerts and the need to support live music, from classical to punk to Middle Eastern. Then Smith declared that the responsive Twin Cities audience made him proud to be born in St. Paul.
Kiedis? He must have been backstage surfing the Web for the AARP site.
[Photos: Carlos Gonzalez]